Bellator president Scott Coker went on Ariel Helwani’s ESPN MMA Show on Monday and revealed the news that his promotion is thinking about conducting a 16-man featherweight grand prix tournament. According to Coker, the championship will start running in October and will feature 16 of their top featherweights in Bellator, for example fighters in the branch in addition to bantamweights moving upward and possibly even lightweights moving . The featherweight championship follows at the forefront of the advertising’s heavyweight grand prix, which just watched Ryan Bader crowned winner, and also the welterweight tournament, which remains ongoing.
Coker told Helwani he wants the first round of eight fights in the tournament to take place on a single night or on back-to-back nights in the autumn. He also said he wants the tournament to complete within a calendar year, which nearly mirrors the heavyweight and welterweight tournament timelines.
As far as who will be among the 16 fighters at the tournament, so far no one has been announced, however, Coker did state that he wants Bellator featherweight champion Patricio”Pitbull” Freire to be part of the tournament. Pitbull is taking on Michael Chandler in May for the Bellator lightweight name, so if he will take part in the tournament he’ll be the winner, meaning that his belt is going to be at stake in every round of this tournament like Rory MacDonald’s welterweight title is online each time he fights.
As far as some other featherweights who are expected to maintain the tournament, here are a few who seem to be close locks: Growing prospect AJ McKee; top rival Henry Corrales; former champ Daniel Straus; former champ Pat Curran; former high prospect Aaron Pico; former name contender Emmanuel Sanchez; and former UFC fighter Sam Sicilia.
The fact there are not 16 featherweights means that bantamweights are also encouraged to move up, and Coker already said that James Gallagher and Darrion Caldwell will be requested to take part in the championship. I would also expect Ricky Bandejas and Juan Archuleta to be requested, too. As far as lightweights proceed, there could potentially be a few fighters who may make the cut down a weight class including Derek Campos, who simply fought at featherweight in his final fight, and Ryan Scope, who just lost a close fight against Patricky”Pitbull” Freire.
It’s fascinating to see Bellator continue to hold such tournaments as the sport of MMA was build on the tournament format. The advertising’s bedrock back in the Bjorn Rebney days was the championships but when Coker initially came in they started to go away in exchange for superfights and legends conflicts. Nonetheless, it feels like Coker, Bellator, Paramount and DAZN love the tournaments as this is the next one the promotion will be running over the last couple of years. At this point, you have to wonder what another tournament for Bellator will be, and if I had to guess that it would be something in the women’s divisions. For the time being, though, featherweight has become a fantastic set of conflicts.
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